Andy Shuttleworth, a member of the wounded, injured, or sick (WIS) military veterans community, disabled/adaptive recumbent trike rider, and ardent Zwifter is leading the charge for representation and inclusion of Adaptive Advocacy.
It’s been quite clear for some time, and particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, that a disproportionate number of disabled, adaptive cyclists use Zwift.
Many of these are wounded, injured or sick (WIS) military personnel and veterans. Many of these adaptive riders use Zwift in a similar fashion to able-bodied, upright riders, for training, as an alternative to riding in real-life in poor weather, for competitions, etc.
Some adaptive and able-bodied riders now ride exclusively in Zwift or other virtual platforms for reasons of safety and security. We also have adaptive riders with “hidden wounds”, less obvious injuries and diseases, including psychological issues that mean virtual cycling is the only opportunity that some have for exercise.
Zwift have been asked many times to provide avatars that matched the real-life experiences of adaptive riders and these feature requests have been met by a wall of silence.
At the start of 2022 The Zommunique published several articles highlighting the issue. Including “Through Virtual Cycling Military Veteran Andy Shuttleworth Heals and Helps” and “One of the Most Momentous Events in Virtual Cycling Recently Took Place, and Not Enough of Us Are Aware, But We All Should Be” which was also published in the CyclingNews.
These articles were widely shared by the adaptive cycling community on social media including Facebook groups and the response from both adaptive and able-bodied riders has been overwhelmingly positive, that Zwift should do something to rectify the situation and do it quickly.
“Very well said and completely agree that ZWIFT should offer bikes and avatars that are more representative of all riders.”
“Well said, and I was wondering about this myself the other day even though I don’t ride a recumbent or adaptive cycle. I have ridden with those who use these bikes and have the utmost respect for them.”
“I’ve been banging on about this for years. They really really really ought to do it. There are not many people more admirable than disabled athletes in my view.”
“It doesn’t matter that these are virtual platforms. Insisting that everyone appears as a “normal” cyclist diminishes the athletes behind the avatars; that rider dropped from the pack to toil alone ride after ride might just be using a hand cycling ergometer. The same could be true for runners (although in their case they’re probably getting abuse for cheating because they’re going so fast in their racing chair).
Thanks for posting about this Andy and great article Christopher Schwenker. I hope this is something Zwift move on too, and fast.“
Amanda Seyle Jones
“Thanks for speaking up. Representation and awareness are important, and people with disabilities shouldn’t have to “pass” or hide in online platforms. I have a teen son who has disabilities, and his disabilities include less nuanced language. We both appreciate your advocacy. Is there any way we can be of support?”
As you can see, the posts sparked a lot of discussion and many of those who responded wanted to know how they could help.
One of those responders, an American called Chris Cleeland, sparked an idea; perhaps we should become more militant. Whilst the original suggestion was to walk away from Zwift entirely and use financial pressure to achieve a change, that seemed a little self-defeating.
Awareness and the glare of publicity is often more productive and so the idea of a demonstration within Zwift itself was born. The concept was widely discussed within the WIS community and their supporters on Zwift and the plan finalised.
The idea is for a month of advocacy within Zwift from 1st March 2022 and ending at midnight on 1st April 2022.
Want to Get Involved? Here's What You Can Do!
If you want to take part in the first-ever demonstration within the Zwift virtual world this is what you can do:
- From 1st March 2022 until the end of 1st April 2022, we are asking adaptive riders and those upright riders amongst you who support these efforts, to wear the gray Zwift Camo 2 Kit.
- We’ve chosen this jersey as it’s available to everyone once they’ve got to level 3 and because the idea has sprung out of the military adaptive riding community who simply love camo. Most of all it’s because all adaptive riders are camouflaged within Zwift. Gray because it emphasizes we don’t stand out. No one really sees us.
- We know that some of you ride in races and club colours and so can’t wear the gray camo all the time, so we are also asking adaptive riders to modify their Zwift names to show support.
- If you are an Adaptive Rider please modify your name in Zwift to look like this to show what you ride in real life and your status: Fred Bloggs[Triker][Adaptive Rider]
- If you are a supporter, please just add [Adaptive Advocate] after your name.
Freda Bloggs[Upright][Adaptive Advocate]
6. The more people who join in, the more likely this is to be picked up by the Press and this will increase the pressure on Zwift to get on board. Some of us are already wearing the kit and logo in the run-up to 1st March.
This is the regular We Are invictus Social Ride hosted by the Invictus Games Foundation at 16:45 BST every Sunday. These shots were taken on Sunday 20th Feb 2022.
Once again, the idea has been floated on social media with a very positive response:
“Consider it done mate.”
“Well thought out and presented! This is definitely a great cause and statement. I like that your not trying to hurt Zwift’s bottom line but to raise awareness to your cause through reasonable means. I will absolutely support your endeavour, consider me Camo 2’ed next month!! Good luck.”
“Color me camo 2.”
“Whenever I ride with a pace partner, I put in adaptive bikes in the comment. Every little bit helps.”
“Great idea and happy to support. Something I hadn’t considered but thank you for raising my awareness Andy.”
“Christopher Schwenker I’m in! Thank you for raising awareness!”
“Love it, hope you’re able to make a difference! I’ll certainly be switching kits in support of your cause.”
“Oh, can someone remind me of this as I would like to support.”
“Yes, I would like to be reminded too. I am the mom of a child with a disability – we are going soon to pick out her first adaptive bike…”
“As a PT in RL, I wish more of the disabled community had the opportunity to become adaptive athletes….”
“Totally agree with you and fully support your cause, I’m now in Camo and title changed.”
So get your Camp 2 kit and Adaptive Rider or Adaptive Advocate tagline and show your support!
Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit. Chris is committed to helping others with his bike through its work and the pages of his site.
In the summer of 2022, he rode 3,900 miles from San Francisco to New York to support the charity he founded, TheDIRTDadFund. His “Gain Cave” resides on the North Fork of Long Island, where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two independent children.
You will read him promoting his passion on the pages of Cycling Weekly, Cycling News, road.cc, Zwift Insider, Endurance.biz, and Bicycling. Chris is co-host of The Virtual Velo Podcast, too!